The annual Statistics on Alcohol for England 2017 has been released, detailing national data for key alcohol-related indicators and health harms.
Mainly bringing together recent alcohol data releases, the overall trend remains one of falls in drinking amongst younger people, whilst many measures of harm including the latest alcohol-related hospital admissions continue to rise, largely driven by heavier drinking mid and older age adults. See here for Guardian and BBC reports.
Key headlines from the release include:
Hospital admissions – broad measure
- There were 1.1 million estimated admissions related to alcohol consumption in 2015/16. This is 4% more than 2014/15.
- This represents 7.0% of all hospital admissions which is similar to 2014/15 and 2013/14.
- Blackpool had the highest rate at 3,540 per 100,000 population. Isle of Wight had the lowest rate at 1,400.
Hospital admissions – narrow measure
- There were 339 thousand estimated admissions related to alcohol consumption in 2015/16. This is 3% higher than 2014/15 and 22% higher than 2005/06.
- This represents 2.1% of all hospital admissions which has changed little in the last 10 years.
See here for the LAPE statistical commentary [pdf] on the latest alcohol-related hospital admission figures.
- 57% of adults reported drinking alcohol in the previous week in 2016 which is a fall from 64% in 2006.
- This equates to 25.3 million adults in England.
- Those who drank more than 8/6 units on their heaviest day in the last week fell from 19% to 15%.
- In 2015, there were 6,813 deaths which were related to the consumption of alcohol. This is 1.4% of all deaths.
- The number of deaths is similar to 2014 but is an increase of 10% on 2005.
[NB Age standardised death rates show a relatively stable trend since 2012].
- The number of prescription items dispensed in 2016 was 188 thousand which was 4% lower than 2015 but 63% higher than 2006. This breaks the recent trend of successive year on year increases.
- The total Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) was £4.87 million. This is 24% higher than in 2015 and more than double the level ten years ago.
Recent sets of both data though show similar findings in terms of identified trends and socio-economic or geographical variations. However a small decline in the OPN’s proportion of adult drinkers in Britain to 56.9% based on reported drinking in the last week is the lowest since 2005 when the survey began. This time point has however been described as ‘peak booze’ following several decades of steep increases before the turn of the century. As well as the many important demographic differences behind these overall trends in reported consumption, more detailed research has continued to highlight the ‘rich tapestry’ behind the various drinking groups and the extent of under-estimation in self-report data.
Prescriptions: an unexpected drop?
Whilst the ten year trend for prescriptions to treat alcohol dependency has risen significantly, a 4% drop on 2015 may be notable, though largely due to a significant fall in Disilfiram prescriptions. The release however notes a sharp rise of £22 for the Net Ingredient Cost for Disilfiram giving a likely indication as to why. Also of interest, prescription items for Nalmefene fell by 1,000 from 4,400 in 2015 to 3,400 in 2016 which may reflect the apparent decision by its producers Lundbeck ceasing promotion activity in the UK, but also potentially linked to questions raised over the evidence and licensing process.
Alcohol-related cancers: a further harm measure
The latest LAPE statistical commentary [pdf] also includes estimates of alcohol-related cancer based on the six cancer types which are known to have an alcohol link; mouth, throat, breast, stomach, liver and bowel cancer. The release suggests approximately 19,000 new cancer cases each year attributed to alcohol. Since 2004 these rates have been rising, but a recent small drop in alcohol-related cancer rates for men has not yet been followed by the rates for women.
Looking ahead: sales and pricing?
For those keen on assessing the potential future for harm and consumption trends, interest will no doubt be focused on forthcoming sales data which indicated a return to rising total UK alcohol consumption last year, largely driven by the continued growth in off-sales. As such, health advocates wish to see Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) to curb the availability of the cheapest alcohol – a final conclusion to Scotland’s long running bid is expected imminently.
There has been a great deal of talk recently about JAM (just about managing)
or “squeezed middle” in the UK and this share of expenditure being spent on booze can’t be helping financially or otherwise.